"I've seen the needle and damage done.
The little part of it in everyone.
But every junkie's like the setting sun."
One artist, out of many, that I would buy every time he released something new was Jackson Browne. While probably not considered as artistic as a Neil Young, Browne likewise tended to a more philosophical lyrical content, but at a more introspective and less social turn than Neil Young. This is particularly true of Browne's work up to and including "Running on Empty" (after which he began to take a more political bent musically. He had always been something of an activist, but with the election of Ronald Reagan, his activism started to increasingly infiltrate his music).
On an early album ("For Everyman") there was a song called "These Days." We are attracted, I think, to music that either reflects something within us, or calls us to something to which we aspire. "These Days" was the former for me, particularly in the closing line, which states:
"Don't confront me with my failures;
I had not forgotten them."
Why bring this up? Because I want to reflect on the power of the Gospel. In the book of Hebrews, the author tells us that under the Old Covenant "gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper" (ESV Hebrews 9:9). I would argue that this is true not only of the Old Covenant sacrifices, but any religious activity that man undertakes. It fails to deal with our guilty conscience. So we seek other things (sex, drugs, and rock&roll) to blunt our own recognition of guilt.
Let me quote another artist who I've quoted before on this issue:
"There's a void in my heart
I can't seem to fill.
I do charity work when I believe in the cause,
But my soul it bothers me still.
Hey Lord you can make me like I am,
Can you heal this restlessness?
Or will there be a void in my heart
When they carry me out to rest?"
"As I sit alone tonight
I see a billion just like me.
With a void in their hearts,
And running from eternity."
There is only one answer to this guilt and void. The Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel tells us that Jesus has removed our guilt by being the once for all sacrifice for sin (see Hebrews 10:1-23). Note especially in contrast to Hebrews 9:9 that in 10:22 we are told, "let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." The Gospel, rightly understood, cleanses our guilty conscience and fill the void in our heart.
We, even we Christians, must continually preach the Gospel to ourselves for this to be true. Especially those of us who are prone to reflect back on past mistakes and dwell on them. One of the most comforting passages for me in this regard is the close of the book of Micah (chapter 7). A proclamation that one day God would deal with our sin, and not by punishing us.
18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities under foot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.
20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob
and steadfast love to Abraham,
as you have sworn to our fathers
from the days of old.